The Brew Site

The Beer Hacker: Writing a Beer Blog: Part 2: Finding Stuff to Write About

Back in Part 1 of this mini-series I covered how to start a blog. The question that often arises after starting one is, what do I write about? In the case of a beer-themed weblog, you’ll want to stay on topic, but there are a bunch of options: news, other beer blogs, beer tastings, brewery reviews, and more.

Of course, the reality is, the sky’s the limit—but to keep things simple I’ll cover a few of the broader categories.

Beer news

There are a number of very good beer publications out there which cover the gamut of beer-related news: Celebrator, BeerAdvocate Magazine, Ale Street News, and so on.

But this is a focus on the online world, and accordingly there are a number of very good online resources for beer news. Let’s examine several.

Blogs & RSS feeds

Of course, often the best way to get the latest beer information is to go to the source: the blogs. Yes, I’m considering blogs a primary source: aside from the personal blogs, many of the professional beer writers have them, a number of professional brewers and breweries have them, and more and more brewers (or their marketing agencies) are reaching out to bloggers first with samples and new products to review.

In fact, I’d venture to say we’re somewhere near a beer blogging tipping point—look at the rapid growth and spread of The Session (an entirely blogger-launched event), for instance: I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time before that "breaks out" of the beer blogging world and gains notice elsewhere in the "mainstream" world.

So it makes sense—no, it’s basically a requirement—to follow the beer blogs if you’re going to write your own. The easiest way to do this is to use a news reader application and subscribe to the various RSS feeds that are out there.

A "news reader" is a program that essentially aggregates all the content of the blogs (or other sites—they don’t have to be just blogs) into one location, automatically. It’s subscription-based, so you get to choose what to follow. And it’s enormously convenient—you don’t have to remember or bookmark every single blog you want to read every day.

An "RSS feed" is an alternative version of the site’s content, bundled up in a coded format that is easy for other programs to use or display. A term you’ll often see in referring to this is "syndication" or a "syndicated feed"—as in, "syndicating" the site content for other purposes. News readers subscribe to these to easily follow updates.

Going into the details of setting up a news reader is beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll point you to two that I like: Google Reader and Bloglines. Both are entirely web-based, so you don’t have to install special software on your computer to run—just open them up in your browser. And both are very easy to use.

Once you’ve set yourself up with a news reader, you can start adding subscriptions to it. This is basically as simple as copying and pasting the URL of the site in question into the news reader form (a good news reader will do the rest).

For sites that aren’t blogs, but do have RSS feeds (like the various news sites I discussed above), the procedure will be a little different. You’ll want to look for the symbol on the page that denotes the RSS feed; typically it’s something like:

or

So where do you start? Well, here’s a beginning list of blogs you can check out:

I hate to make it seem as though I’m showing a bias here, though; for a much more thorough list, check out my reading list page.

Beer tasting notes/reviews

Any regular reader of my site knows that a fair amount of my blog posts are beer reviews. Simply put, reviewing beer is a great and guaranteed way to have stuff to write about.

Make sure to keep notes on the beers you’ve tasted; I have a notebook at home that is filled with my tasting notes, and every time I have a beer that I have yet to review, I write down my impressions as I drink.

Your method might vary, of course, but I follow a basic, somewhat standard format:

I tend to just regurgitate my notes word-for-word to my review, with some additional commentary if I feel it’s warranted. I like to link to the beer reviews on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, too, to give a balanced, "general" view on what people think of the beer.

Most importantly, be honest in your review—don’t be afraid to be negative if you don’t like the beer.

Brewery reviews

Much in the same vein as beer reviews, you can write about the breweries you visit. Myself, when I visit a brewery these days, I try to have my notebook along with me to take notes (especially if it’s a brewery I’ve never before visited), as well as a camera to take pictures.

Since I’m not really covering any new ground here, here’s a few tips:

So that’s about it, four general ways to help you come up with things to write about for your (new?) beer blog. Remember, though, the sky is the limit; by no means limit yourself to what I’ve explored here—be creative! Join The Session each month! Write about homebrewing! Beer and food!

The possibilities are almost endless, so what are you waiting for?